Bunions: Symptoms, Treatment and Surgery
A bunion is a common deformity found on the foot in which a bump forms over time and begins to protrude from the forefoot. The bunion is actually a deformity of the first metatarsal phalangeal joint, or “Big Toe Joint”. In this case the big toe begins to deviate, causing the muscles, bones, and joints to become imbalanced. As time goes on, this imbalance leads to arthritis and the stereotypical large bump, known as a bunion, to stick out from the foot.
Symptoms of Bunions
Bunions are progressive, which means that they continue to get worse or “grow” over time. As the bunion grows, not only does it typically become more painful, but it makes wearing normal shoes more and more difficult. This is often the most common complaint made by patients. As the bunion deformity advances, it may also encourage hammertoes to form. Eventually, close toed shoes become almost unbearable to wear, and actually contribute to skin lesions, referred to as corns and calluses. These skin lesions are a nuisance, which in certain populations may cause more severe complications such as ulcerations and infections.
Treatment Options for Bunions
Not only are foot bunions painful, and cumbersome, but they are somewhat cosmetically unappealing. Bunion treatment includes both conservative/non-surgical and surgical treatment options. Conservative bunion treatment includes special strappings, splints, and braces designed to hold the toe in the proper alignment. Shoes may need to be modified as well to allow more room in the toe box, or you may even need to opt for open-toed shoes or sandals. Non-steroidal, and steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may help alleviate arthritic pain. If conservative treatment options aren’t providing relief, your podiatrist may suggest foot bunion surgery.
Ultimately, conservative treatment options may allow a reasonable decrease in symptoms and this may be ideal for many patients. However, the only way to correct the bunion deformity, and give the best long-term chances of pain-free walking, is with bunion surgery. Bunion treatment surgery restores normal foot alignment. Once the foot is properly aligned and mechanics of the big toe joint are restored by bunion surgery, the patient can once again wear normal shoes and experience a more natural pain-free gait pattern.
Foot bunion surgery does require patience during the post-operative period for several reasons. The big toe joint is the “work horse” of the foot. Due to the large amount of forces applied during normal walking and standing, bunion surgery treatment requires a period of time where no weight may be applied to the surgical area. Furthermore, because the bunion and foot are so far away from the heart, and the forces of gravity are acting on them, bunion surgery treatment is prone to leave patients with a large amount of swelling. Post-operative swelling may take several months to resolve. Despite this, bunion surgery is ultimately the most reliable, and rewarding option, for bunion treatment.